Ryan Shaw will get to enjoy the senior season he lost — with more humility.
“It just made me appreciate the small things,” the Arkansas-Pine Bluff free safety said. “Being away from the game, it hurt a lot. But it helps me coming back because I can go harder than I did before.”
This month’s spring practices have been Shaw’s first since August, when he was ruled academically ineligible. He had just been placed on a watch list for a College Football Performance Award after making the All-SWAC first team in UAPB’s 2012 conference championship season.
His departure left the Golden Lions without much experience at his position.
“With us missing him last year, it was a big drop,” rising junior safety Kevin Rucker said. “But with him back now, it’s just more motivation. He comes out there, gets everybody pumped up, and he has more experience than a lot of the guys. And experience (makes) a big difference in a player.”
This spring, Shaw is taking it all in, working with the first team as he gears for his final season. The Monticello High graduate helps Rucker with the leadership role in a secondary that must replace two starting senior cornerbacks.
But he had some academic business to take care of first before he could put on the pads again.
“I didn’t pass enough hours in the spring and I couldn’t make it up in summer because I didn’t pass the required amount in the spring,” Shaw said, explaining what led to his ineligibility.
“I had to clean it (the academics) up. I was chilling a lot, took it for granted. But I’m here and I’m focused now.”
UAPB coach Monte Coleman let Shaw off the team during preseason drills to address his academic problems. Coleman confirmed five days before the season opener at Arkansas State that Shaw was ineligible.
Shaw said the time away from football humbled him.
He added his grades have “drastically improved” this school year, which allowed him to return to action. The Lions now have in Shaw a player who broke up 13 passes and made 62 tackles two seasons ago and has faith he can have more success after a season away.
“Just coming out, working every day, keeping my faith in God knowing He’s going to make me better every day,” Shaw said. “That’s what I put my trust in every day.”